Although it might seem like something that only exists in the movies to some people, Honda engine swapping is a very real thing.
You’ve probably heard Honda enthusiasts boasting in the pub about who has the biggest turbocharger or the best intake. You’ll hear talk of who has got their hands on the newest exhaust or the most finely-tuned remapping. Everything, from entire engines to those little LED lights you find in the footwell sometimes.
It’s engine swaps and modifications that we’ll be considering today.
To people who aren’t car lovers, this talk of “engine swapping” probably makes as much sense as using a blimp to get to work: why would you, when the popular, established commuting alternatives are just fine for most people? And the answer is, of course, that it’s not about what the most sensible thing to do is. Or the most economical. Or even the fact that, to some people, you look a bit strange.
It’s all about the thrill of the ride.
Honda Engine Swapping – Why Hondas?
Honda cars are some of the most popular for general modification, including engine swapping.
At the root of this is the original production car. Honda is a company that produces cars for the average driver. Okay, there are a couple of slightly more exciting models (such as the NSX or Type Rs) but, in general, Hondas have traditionally been affordable and reliable.
This has led to 2 things that make engine swapping very popular:
- The cars are affordable and easy to find almost anywhere, yet still good quality.
- There is a wide array of aftermarket parts available.
These 2 factors combine to produce a very popular aftermarket… market.
Take a look at this article from Hot Cars for some inspiration on what aesthetic to give your Honda. It’s entitled “15 Stunning Photos Of The Sickest Modded Hondas”.
Why Would I Want To Do An Engine Swap On My Honda?
As we have already alluded to in this article, Honda engine swapping probably isn’t for the everyday driver. If all you use your car for is driving to and from the shops or for the occasional social outing, an engine swap isn’t likely to be for you.
However, if you’re the kind of person that goes driving just for the joy of it, it may be of value to you.
It all boils down to this: do an engine swap if you want more power.
There are other things you can do to give your engine a boost too, without swapping it. For example, you could get it remapped (the engine timings altered via a computer) or fit a forced induction system, such as a turbocharger or a supercharger.
These are viable alternatives. They also (usually) don’t require as much work as a full engine swap, although neither should you think of it as a nice, easy 20-minute job.
— Engine Swap Depot (@engineswapdepot) January 1, 2016
However, they are limited by the original engine itself. Think about it. These engines are built to be able to withstand forces up to its standard redline and possibly slightly beyond. Once this engine speed (or its equivalent torque) have been reached in an engine – modified or unmodified – you are entering unknown territory.
This is something that the engine is often not prepared for and, as a result, putting too much extra power through your engine could make it go – in technical terms – bang.
Whether or not this is likely to happen to you depends on your engine. However, the more power your engine can take as stock, the better equipped it will be.
You can also have the new, swapped-in engine remapped too, should you want to, or have forced induction systems installed. These still carry the same risks as modifying an OEM engine though, so be cautious to some extent.
What are Some Disadvantages of Honda Engine Swapping?
Honda engine swapping does come with some disadvantages – like everything.
First of all, a very quick run-through of the advantages:
- You’ll have more power! – and all the benefits that come from that.
- The car will be an example of your mechanical know-how – or help you to learn.
- Bragging rights around your mates.
- It’s a good, honest hobby.
As always though, you should be aware of the risks too.
We have detailed a few of these below.
Disadvantages You Should Know
- Insurance and/or tax premiums might increase – this depends on your local or national authority, but often modified cars come with higher charges on tax and insurance. This is because, 1) they are a statistically greater risk for insurers; and, 2) the carbon dioxide output is likely to be greater.
- Fuel economy is likely to decrease – although you’re unlikely to be too worried about this, you should be prepared for what is sometimes a dramatic increase in fuel bills. Such is (usually) the cost of power.
- You should expect less reliability from your car – Honda built the car as one unit. Changing out just one part of that “unit” could easily lead to an imbalance somewhere else in the car, causing something else to break. You should always expect to have to do more work on a modified car, of any kind, than a stock car.
- The car’s value may change – and it’s most likely to decrease – this isn’t always true. Especially with Hondas, modified versions can occasionally be even more valuable than the original. It’ll have to be exceptional quality, though, and you should know that the average car buyer won’t be interested in it. This might make it harder to find a buyer. Basically, when doing an engine swap or other modification, you should rarely expect to make any money on it.
How Should I Do a Honda Engine Swap?
In the simplest terms possible, this boils down to 2 possible choices:
- Do it yourself.
- Pay someone else to do it.
Of course, it’s only you that can make this decision. There are several things you’ll want to think about, though. We have listed a few of them below to help you think it through.
This file may be useful for you. On this pdf from angelfire.com, The Ultimate Honda Engine Swap Guide, written by Jared Holstein, you’ll find a load of very useful information. It was published around the year 2000.
Perhaps most importantly for what we’re looking at today, it also contains a chart which ranks old Hondas against how easy they are to swap various engines in – from 1 (very easy) to 4 (knuckle-breakingly infuriating).
Reasons For Doing It Myself
To approach an engine swap, you will need a decent understanding of how a car works, mechanically, as well as a good practical skillset. Engine swapping isn’t (usually) just about lifting one engine out and dropping a different one back in.
Everything else in the engine bay will have to move around. For example, the engine mounts will probably be in different places. You may need to rearrange the intake and exhaust, where the battery goes, the washer bottle, and all sorts of things like that.
The main benefit of doing it yourself is, naturally, money. Doing a good job by yourself can save you an awful lot compared to paying a professional to do it.
There is a snag though, as always. That is, if you were to mess it up, there wouldn’t be any insurance on your work. By contrast, getting it done professionally means that, if something goes wrong, it should be covered by a warranty.
Weigh up your experience and mechanical knowledge, along with whether the work is a priority or not. You should also consider the tools, facilities and space that you have available.
Reasons For Getting a Professional To Do It
When taking the car to a professional to get the work done, as mentioned previously, you are insuring yourself and the vehicle. Perhaps this might not be literal, but there is less weight of responsibility on your shoulders this way.
The counterbalance for doing it this way is the expense. Standard hourly rates can vary from anywhere in between $30 per hour and $100 per hour. Depending on the engine swap you’re intending to do, this may take a mechanic anything from half a day to a week.
Another consideration might be how busy the garage you’re taking the car to is. If it’s one of those that’s constantly moving cars in and out quickly, they might not have much time for your engine swap. This means that it might take longer to complete. Should your Honda engine swap be a priority project for some reason, this is important to consider.
Overall, unless you are very sure of your own abilities, getting a professional mechanic to do this job for you will – in all likelihood – result in a higher-quality finish.
There are many professional Honda modification companies out there. One of the most well-known – and yet mysterious – is Spoon. Check out our article here to learn more about them.
How Much Does Honda Engine Swapping Cost?
It’s a great question and definitely something you want to know before getting started. The last thing you want is to suddenly find yourself with no engine and no money to get it back.
However – this question does take the mind to the old phrase, “How long is a piece of string?”
How much this will cost you depends on many factors, namely:
- What engine you are swapping in and swapping out.
- The quality of the work.
- If you are doing it yourself or paying others.
- How many other car parts you’ll be modifying and/or swapping too.
- How quickly you need it done.
- And many more.
This YouTube video explains it nicely.
How to Approach It Financially
The best way to approach the cost aspect of a project like this is to set aside your budget right from the off. If you have that, you’ll know what you’re working towards and whether (or not) it’s a good idea at this moment.
If you decide it isn’t viable right now, there’s no need to worry – come back to it in a year or two, having put some money aside if you can.
On the other hand, if you’re keen to get moving, you should begin to look at and decide what engine swap you’re going to go for. We’ve included a brief list in this article.
Once that’s been decided, put a call into your local garages and parts suppliers. They will all be happy to give you quotes in the hope of future business with you. You can then use these quotes to decide on what the best path to follow will be, from a financial point of view.
When getting these quotes, be sure to also get time frames. Some parts have to be shipped in from abroad, and some garages will take longer to complete a job than others.
You can use many auto parts sites to quickly check the prices of lots of stock parts. Just enter your plates and double-check the parts’ measurements.
Will I Also Have to Modify Other Car Parts?
In short, almost certainly.
It’s highly recommended.
The best way to think of it is that, if all goes to plan, when you’re done you’ll have an engine with at least 20% more power (in most cases). Sometimes much more.
Usually, the transmission will come along with the new engine. That solves a few difficulties – unless the new one doesn’t fit properly! In that case, you’d have to modify the bodywork massively.
It should be clear that a more powerful engine is likely to require more air and more fuel. This means upgrading both of those systems too. The new engine may also need a bigger exhaust to get rid of the gases more efficiently.
Too much power could overwhelm the clutch and hurt the gearbox. Engine mounts and brackets might need to be swapped or modified.
And that’s before we’ve even got onto basic safety things, such as:
- Brakes (more power is great, but you should, in turn, make sure your stopping power gets an upgrade too).
- Tyres – your tyres are quite literally your point of contact with the road. They need to be able to handle the forces being put through them. Too much will simply burn them out in no time, leading to the risk of a crash.
- Seat belts and seats – just to be safe, you might want these upgrading.
- and many more.
Although on some engine swaps it’s easy to just swap one engine out for another, it’s a good idea to make sure you look after the rest of the car at this time as well.
Remember, although the engine is the heart, the whole car functions as one body. All the parts need to be able to work together properly for an exhilarating driving experience.
Well-Known Honda Engine Swaps on Civics
This is the kind of go-to engine swap in Civics. The first one you might think of. It’s not the cheapest, but there are an awful lot of K-Series engines around and they are very well mechanically documented.
It’s this that leads them to be among the easiest engines to swap into a car.
As standard, you can find K-Series engines with 200 bhp, or even up to 220 bhp on the JDM (Japanese Domestic Market). Compared to a standard engine, that’s plenty.
It does require a certain amount of change in the engine bay. Mounts and transmission might have to be swapped, as well as a few other things.
Check out Wikipedia for some detailed information on K-Series engines.
For more information on K-Series Honda engine swapping, check out this video.
We have also included this video. This is the first episode in a series of 5 – they are all well worth checking out for information on swapping a K-Series into a Civic.
You can find H-engines in Honda Preludes, from the years 1992-2001.
It’s a little more complex because you’ll have to modify basically everything in the engine bay you can see, including mounts and things such as balance belts. The H-engines were never intended to be swapped into Civics.
H-Series engines are also bigger and heavier than the standard B-Series engines you find in older Civics. However, they put out a high level of horsepower due to the larger displacement.
Here’s what you can expect from an H22 swap.
For those of you new to Honda engine swapping, B-Series swaps are probably the way to go. These quite simply lift in and lift out in most cases. In that way, they are probably the easiest on this list.
Of all the B-engines available, we would recommend the B18C1. This is not to be confused with the B18C, which is the Type R engine. However, you could make a good go of that one too.
The B18C1 is more torquey than most and, whilst still quite expensive, won’t wipe your bank account clean in quite the same way as some of the others.
Here’s an introduction to B-Series engines from Car Tech Books.
Here’s some footage of a B18C1 in action.
J-Series engines are 60-degree V6s. They’re the big engines often found in passenger vehicles (MPVs) such as the Accord. They’re hefty, and with good reason: they’re designed to shift a big car.
Taking it out and dropping it into a Civic gives a very hefty amount of power to a very light car. You can expect 200 bhp +. One of the main benefits of doing a J-Series engine swap is the price – these engines are very popular and so the price is, comparatively, very low.
These engines, however, require a lot of bodywork modification to be properly installed. You’ll need drills and cables and all sorts. You won’t find much support out there as well, as J-Series swaps aren’t as popular as, for example, B-engine swaps.
They’re also heavy enough to severely affect the balance of the car. They could easily cause handling issues such as understeer. If you’re planning on going this way, you should modify the suspension (including wheels and tyres) to counteract this.
Although it’s not quite a K-Series swap, it’s not too far behind, as this video shows. If you like, skip to the rolling start acceleration tests at 3:24.
What Else Could I Do?
Have a search around. Explore your options. There are so many different options available that it wouldn’t make much sense to go through them all on this article.
As well as the ones we’ve briefly mentioned above, you could also look at many others. Check websites, YouTube, old magazines and even old books for inspiration. With Hondas, in particular, the sky is the limit.
If it’s your first time, we would especially recommend going with a B-Series swap. This is almost certainly going to be the simplest. By no means should you think it’s easy, but it’s a good way to get started. If all goes to plan with that, you can always try again with whatever you choose.
Here are a couple of great videos from Myton on YouTube, comparing different Honda engine types. First, which is the best? The H-Series, K-Series or J-Series? See below.
We have also included this video which compares the K- and B-Series engines.
Honda Engine Swapping Conclusion
We hope this article has been useful to you.
Whether you decide on doing a Honda engine swap yourself or getting someone else to do it, there are many options available to you. Hondas are – according to many people – the best cars for modifying and, while many still would disagree, there are good reasons behind it.
If driving is something you love, get out there and get your Honda project on the road!